This morning I read a recap of that Lindsay show, skimmed a series of gifs from Justin Bieber's deposition, and read a heartfelt article about Adam Lanza's father. You probably did too. What stuck out to me, though, was a common thread in all the comment sections - that their parents had fucked up somehow - and I'm really bothered by the connotations of that sentiment.

To quote just some of what I saw so far today:

  • With those two as parents I find it somewhat impressive she isn't even more of a mess than she actually is
  • Very few people have to deal with such a toxic family of origin,
  • Never mind the father because that dude is a loser, beyond redemption.
  • there's no way the father didn't play a big part in why this kid became the way he did.
  • I blame the parents

Ah, there we go, someone stopped dancing around it and said it outright.

It's certainly not in every comment thread, but it's very clear that people want someone to blame when someone else is shitty. Obviously, a lot (but not all) of this falls into murky territory of mental illness and what we can do about it. And what we can't do about it. Some of it probably comes from a place of rationalizing how this won't occur in our lives and some of it is trying to excuse the public figures we like so that we can keep on liking them.

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Maybe what it really indicates is that we all just want a grown up to take care of thinking about this hard stuff for us. We want a grown up to be the reason things went wrong, because then when and if it comes into our lives we'll know it wasn't us. If only the adults had addressed it better/at all. What more appropriate grown up to blame than a parent, the ultimate grown up, the authorities since day one?

Meanwhile we certainly don't chalk all successes up to successful parenting. When Taylor Swift writes another hit, we don't gather around the radio to wax rhapsodic about her mom and dad. People might have stewed about RDJ's parents when he was an active Hollywood fuckup (if the internet was better then, anyway), but now that he's Iron Man I'm not sure anyone even remembers that he has parents. If you own your successes and your strengths, why does someone else have to take responsibility for your weaknesses?

Because hey, you have parents (or guardians). Is it their fault when you, an adult, lie to your boss about wasting time on the internet this morning? When you cut someone off in traffic, is your father to blame? If you leave a wet towel on the floor even though you know it annoys your husband to step on a cold damp cloth... is that mommy's fault?

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The tricky part is that everyone had parents, including parents. Maybe they were absentee parents, or deadbeats, or neglectful, or died when you were small, or yelled too much or used a belt... we all came from somewhere, from somebody, and almost none of us had perfect parents. But if we allow ourselves to decide that our contemporary infractions are our parent's fault, can we even really blame them? They had parents too; their fuckups (raising us) weren't their fault! So it's grandma's fault now, except she had parents too so I guess her failings are great-grandpa and great-grandma's fault and so on. Which means that sure, you're not to blame for your mistakes, and neither is Justin Bieber. Nobody is, because they all had parents!

Oh shit, waitasecond. This is all going to lead us back to Adam and Eve and the original fall of man, isn't it. Well fuck. Sorry all, I didn't mean to get into nutjob evangelical territory... but y'know, if you don't like this post, well. Blame my parents.